Legionary infantry is still the backbone of the imperial army and it is now easily considered as the most disciplined and most versatile heavy infantry in the world.
Besides the regions of Italia, they can be recruited in all fully Romanized provinces of the Imperium Romanum, where great numbers of our citizens have now their homes.
Legionary infantry is still the backbone of the imperial army and it is now easily considered as the most disciplined and most versatile heavy infantry in the world. Their broad training and famous discipline offers them many tactical possibilities in battle, but normally legionnaires will fight in the traditional way: throw their pila as soon as the enemy comes in range to soften his formation and then engage at close quarters. While not designed to do so, the pilum can be used as a normal spear as well to make it possible for the legionnaires to defend themselves more readily against heavy cavalry attacks.
The legion's high quality equipment has become one of the great strengths of the Roman infantry, besides their strict discipline. Most legionnaires are now equipped with Coolus bronze helmets, shirts of lorica hamata or squamata (chain or scale mail) as main body armour and a half ovular scutum, slightly lighter than the old republican oval type, while being armed with a type Mainz gladius, two pila and a short dagger called a pugio.
Historically, the citizen legions and their heavy infantry still were the core of the Roman army during the Principate, although their portion of the imperial army’s regular soldiers steadily decreased and fell below 50% during the first century AD. They combined the functions of infantry, pioneer and artillery units in them, and besides the ordinary heavy infantrymen experts in siege warfare, construction projects, and other engineering tasks could be found in the ranks of the legion. Each contubernium, the eight men strong basic logistical units of the army, was equipped with tools and valli for the fast construction of field fortifications or other structures, while some of the legionnaires were trained to act as skirmishers or missile troops in the case the specialised auxilia units were available. To reduce the legion's vulnerable baggage train and increase the mobility of the troops, the soldiers had to carry as much of their equipment as possible by themselves; nearly 50 Kg, so that only one mule was needed for each contubernium. As a welcomed side effect this gave these men, combined with their regular training, an unrivalled endurance.
The legion of the Principate was divided into nine ordinary cohorts and the elite first cohort, that was of double strength at least since the middle of the first century AD. Each cohort consisted of three maniples, still named after the Hastati, Principes and Triarii of the long gone glorious army of the old republic, that are divided into two centuriae of 80 men. Other than in Caesars times the legions of the imperial army are usually up to strength and field approximately 5.500 combatants, including the officers. Despite the size of the imperial legion the organisation had slightly changed again from the post Marian pattern by attaching a small group of 120 horsemen. They mostly operated as scouts and messengers, screened the legion on the march and some of them formed the bodyguard for the legatus legionis, the legions senatorial commander.
During the decades of his rule following the end of the civil war, Augustus reformed the imperial army significantly and created a standing army with 28 legions as its core. In many fields a systematic approach replaced the improvisation of the late republican era. Most important was that the auxilia, with its indispensable cavalry and archer units, became a regular arm of the professional army and its second base.
The length of service for all soldiers was finally set to 26 years for fleet soldiers, 25 years for soldiers of the auxilia, 20 years for legionnaires, and 16 years for praetorians. After their discharge they received a cash bonus, the praemia militare, or a small piece of land. The veterans from the auxilia and the fleet were rewarded with Roman citizenship, and a diploma to prove it. Also, medical treatment was improved and all units were now supplied with physicians.